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1/6/2015 12:00 AM
Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing’s Year 2014: New Airlift Tasks and a Steady Mission Performance
6 JAN 2015 – PÁPA – –Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing flight operations for the year 2014 came to a close on 31 December with the SAC C-17 fleet producing nearly 2,900 annual flight hours. During 2014 SAC fulfilled its nations’ requests to provide support to serve both their existing commitments and various new airlift needs.

SAC C-17 takeoff in Papa ((C) HAW_Juha Vehokari)_web.jpg

During year 2014 SAC C-17s achieved a total annual flying time of nearly 2,900 flight hours and passed milestones for both 15,000 total fleet flying hours and 1,000 missions since the start of SAC flight operations in 2009. Photo: HAW / Juha Vehokari

During 2014 the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) fleet of three Boeing C-17 Globemaster III long-range cargo jets flew a total of 2,892 flight hours on 251 airlift missions during which they transported over 9,400 tons (20.8 million lbs.) of cargo and over 10,300 passengers. According to Colonel Frank Rombouts, the Commander of the SAC operational arm the Heavy Airlift Wing (HAW), the mission performance of 2014 was steady despite the ongoing scheduled fleet maintenance work.

“During the second half of 2014 two of our C-17s have been going through scheduled Heavy Maintenance Work that is carried out on all C-17s every five years of operations. Therefore our capacity has been somewhat less than in 2013 when HAW produced the 3,165 flight hours defined by the SAC Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). However with careful planning and coordination we’ve been successfully able to minimize the loss of flight hours and offer the best possible airlift capability to the 12 SAC nations. I believe we’ll be able to do this during the first half of 2015 as well, when the Heavy Maintenance work will be completed for our fleet”.

In 2014 SAC encountered an increasing number of requests by its member nations for missions to new destinations reflecting the changing needs of their national defenses and their commitments to EU, NATO and UN operations.

“Since 2013 we’ve seen a trend where the SAC member nations have requested the HAW to fly an increasing number of missions to Africa. In March 2013 the HAW flew its first mission to support UN-approved peacekeeping operations in Mali and we’ve continued these missions ever since. In 2014 we also added a new destination in Africa as we supported the European Union EUFOR RCA operation in the Republic of Central Africa”, Colonel Rombouts says.

In 2014 SAC nations also increased the use of the capability in Europe for a wide variety of missions. During the year SAC supported several training activities both with regular airlift and airdrop in its member nations at short notice. SAC C-17s also provided logistics support to the MH17 airliner crash investigation in Ukraine during July and August 2014.


From ISAF to Resolute Support


In the beginning of the year it is still somewhat early to predict what kind of new mission tasks the Heavy Airlift Wing will receive during 2015. Despite this, Colonel Rombouts can already name some commitments that are likely to be converted into several mission requests by the SAC member nations.

“At the end of 2014 the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission ended in Afghanistan and was replaced with the NATO-led training, advice and assistance mission, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM). Ever since the start of SAC flight operations in 2009 ISAF has been a major operation for the HAW as the SAC nations have relied heavily on strategic airlift to support their forces. SAC nations that participated in ISAF are also committed to the RSM so we expect that the demand for airlift to Afghanistan will remain high in the future."

In the field of the development of SAC capabilities there are also new milestones that are expected to be met during 2015. in 2014 the Heavy Airlift Wing received a significant improvement to its capability to handle and store cargo at is home base at the Hungarian Defense Forces Pápa Air Base as the SAC Interim Cargo Facility was inaugurated for use.

The construction of the ICF was a part of the SAC Infrastructure Development Project (IDP) that was approved by the 12 SAC nations in 2013. According to Colonel Frank Rombouts, the next step in the IDP will be taken soon.

“The next part of the Infrastructure Development Project will contribute significantly to the morale and welfare of the SAC personnel as the renovation and improvement of the Pápa Air Base Gym Facility is expected to be completed in early 2015. Also the construction of the new SAC Campus comprising the NATO Airlift Management Programme Office and HAW offices and the C-17 hangar will begin this year with an expected completion date in 2016. This development project is highly significant to SAC as it will improve our mission readiness by providing appropriate facilities for all aspects of the C-17 operations here in Pápa. The Hungarian government has also announced several infrastructure developments at Pápa Air Base that will greatly contribute to the mission success of SAC, such as a new Air Traffic Control Tower and a Passenger Terminal”.


Strategic Airlift Capability Heavy Airlift Wing Mission Performance 2009 – 2014


Missions Sorties Flight Hours Passengers

Cargo (tons / lbs)


948 / 2,090,213


5,327 / 11,744,452


10,536 / 23,228,822


9,285 / 20,471,845


11,429 / 25,195,569


9,462 / 20,860,577


46,988 / 103,591,478